Tech world has been stereotyped as the men-dominated world even though the chance is for every body. There are so many factors that force the imbalance ratio to take place, one of them is the mindset (whether from men AND from women themselves) that women are less capable than men to do tech-related stuffs. There have been some initiatives to fight against such notion and I found one of them in Bali, it’s called The Institute of Code. They’re giving opportunities (in the form of scholarships) for women to learn how to code AND how to make money out of your coding skill. I applied for it because I think I’ve witnessed a lot in the field that I’m working in right now and I have some experiences to share, how the myth is not true. Also, I see the opportunity will help me in the future to support my other skill to achieve the career and lifestyle of my dream in the future. So that later I can tell to my parents, “Mom, you should’ve given me the same opportunity as you gave to your son. But never mind, look at me now.”
As an Indonesian woman, I know for sure that the imbalance ratio stems from more than just a mindset of women. It stems back to the family–at least that’s what happened in my country and what I experienced. When I graduated high school and was going to college, I wanted to study design, whether it’s fashion or graphic design. But those fields–just like other tech-related degree–are so expensive and my parents already sent my brother to a prestigious private university of technology in Indonesia to study computer science. So my parent told me that I could not go to an expensive higher education because ‘WE’ have to focus on my brother because he is a MALE. A son will be the one who’s working for the family and daughter will marry and stop working so that’s why parents are more willing to prioritize their son’s education than the daughter’s. My parents said that being fair is not about giving the same amount, but giving what one deserves and needs, so they assumed that I deserved and needed less.
So I ended up going to a public uni which was 8 times cheaper than my brother’s and studied something else. And my parents, it’s not that they didnt have money for me, they actually had more than enough saving for my education if I chose tech-related major, but they said they kept it for my wedding someday (at that time I hadn’t even started dating!). They said they’d been saving their whole life to afford my brother’s education and my future wedding. I hoped that there would be a chance after my brother graduated that my parents would change their mind and gave a lil portion of chance for me to study what I liked. Unfortunately, then my father fell very ill and we had to spent a lot of money on his surgeries and medication. So no money left and bye-bye, dreams.
But don’t get me wrong, my parents are good parents, they love their kids very much. They tried hard to give us the best. The only problem was that they did it in the way they thought how it should be done, which was also the product of their environment.
And I see that happens often among Indonesian families, so another reason why we only have few women in Indonesian tech-o-sphere is not only because we associate it as a man’s thing (like cars, soccer, etc) but also because we’re not given the opportunity to even know it. How can we know how it feels like when we’re not even given the chance to dream of it?
And now I’m pursuing my creative dreams, first I studied fashion then graphic design, self-taught from books and internet. Both fields, even though they have the word ‘design’, have very different environment. My circumstance in the fashion design world is dominated by women, while in graphic design women is rare. Especially graphic designer that can do web development. In the community group chat/ FB page, they called me with “Mas” instead of “Mbak” (It’s like Mr & Ms in English) eventhough clearly my profile pic is of me and my name is a woman’s name, because they thought girls are not gonna be joining this field.
I actually don’t know why it’s always been associated with men’s world, as if Snapchat is for women and making webs/ apps are for men. In fact in my 28 years of life, I’ve always been the one doing the techie jobs in the communities/ organizations I’ve been. For example, I was the one who set up, designed and managed the website for my theatre club and had to train guys simple tasks like how to upload a post and resize photos in bulk (they didn’t even know how to do them, let alone wordpress design. I designed my craft blog by myself too. (Well I know it’s not impressive or such a big achievement, for someone with no background knowledge in IT, that counts, hehe).
I was inspired by an Indonesian woman figure in our startup scheme, Alamanda Shantika, who was the former vice president of Go-Jek, the biggest startup in Indonesia. She was the first programmer of the startup, not only that, she’s also a designer. She’s my role model in many things. I listen to her talks a lot, stalked her, and found out that she was raised by her family who gave all the children the same opportunities no matter what the gender is. So Alamanda Shantika is the example of how Indonesian women can be when we’re given the same opportunities and trust.
She encourages Indonesian women to be more involved in the startup scheme or at least start to learn tech-related stuff, hence I started my steps with the graphic design thing. I know I probably cant be like her who’s able to build apps from scratch, my goal is just as simple as being able to build simple websites, I kinda like making portofolio websites for different individuals/ companies, I like the design process of it. And I know there’s a demand for it, more and more businesses and people need personal websites. It is surely in my list, even though it’s kinda hard for me to find the environment that can help me to accelerate the learning process. I’ve taught myself several skills but I of course wish I had the opportunity to be in the environment of like-minded people instead of learning by myself in my room with mentors I hardly communicate with. I hope someday I can follow Alamanda’s steps to #changetheratio in my own ways.